Antonio Conte would be impressive Tottenham coup as club searches for clear direction

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<p>Ex-Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is in talks to become Tottenham’s new manager</p> (Getty Images)

Ex-Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is in talks to become Tottenham’s new manager

(Getty Images)

In Antonio Conte, Tottenham are close to appointing one of the top coaches in the world and the best available free agent to fill their vacant manager's position.

Conte's profile may feel uncomfortably close to his predecessor Jose Mourinho, but Mourinho's last league title was six years ago and the Italian's less than six weeks ago.

Conte's appointment would be an impressive coup for Spurs and a show of ambition, immediately returning them to relevance and easing the mounting pressure on Daniel Levy.

And yet the appointment would also suggest that Levy remains caught in two minds about the direction of the club, a dilemma summed up by the chairman's dalliance with former manager Mauricio Pochettino before turning to the former Inter Milan and Juventus coach.

In switching from Pochettino to Conte, it feels like Spurs are simultaneously pulling in opposite directions and unsure about where they want to end up.

The Argentine is the definition of a project coach, committed to a philosophy and achieving long-term success by building a culture from the bottom up.

In considering Pochettino, as well as Julian Nagelsmann, Erik ten Hag and Brendan Rodgers, Levy was acknowledging the need for Spurs to start a new cycle.

Conte, by contrast, has little reputation for gradually building from the bottom.

Like Mourinho, the 51-year-old has made a career on achieving instant success and a willingness to be pragmatic and short-termist in the pursuit of it.

Levy has already gone on record with his preferred blueprint for a new manager with Tottenham "DNA" who plays "free-flowing, attacking and entertaining [football] whilst continuing to embrace our desire to see young players flourish" – and Conte hardly fits the bill, even if his sides are often exhilarating to watch.

 (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Whereas a project coach would take a long-term view, Conte's previous jobs have all been short-term and at Spurs he will immediately want new players to make the side competitive next season.

In turning to Conte, Levy appears to have partially shelved the idea of a starting a new cycle in favour of another attempt to eke out one last push for silverware from the core of the current squad, aided by a new set of ready-to-go summer signings.

It is the same idea which brought Mourinho to Spurs, but it remains to be seen whether the club have the culture or resources to make a success of it, as they continue to pay off the stadium and recover from the financial blow of the pandemic.

In replacing Mourinho with Conte, there are obviously parallels with Chelsea's playbook but there are key differences between the London rivals, not least Roman Abramovich's bottomless wealth, which has enabled the Blues to build a culture and history of success that is still absent at Spurs.

In infrastructure and revenue, Spurs are now a super-club – evidenced by their inclusion in the Super League – but in other ways they remain a work in progress.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

There is almost a sense that by appointing Mourinho and then Conte during another rebuilding phase, Spurs are trying to skip vital steps in the evolution of the current squad.

That said, there is perhaps no better manager than Conte to immediately instil a winning mentality in the players and build on Pochettino's foundations – as Mourinho was supposed to have done.

Clearly, there is more quality in the squad than Spurs showed under the Portuguese and Conte has won a remarkable five titles in seven seasons, a record that could have a transformative effect on the players.

With that kind of pedigree, Levy can legitimately argue that an out-of-work Conte was simply too good an opportunity to miss, regardless of his profile as a coach.

While he has a reputation for demanding signings, Conte is also adept at maximising his resources, best illustrated in the Premier League by his transformation of Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses into title-winning wing-backs at Chelsea.

Ultimately, the scale of his challenge in rebuilding the squad could hinge on whether Harry Kane is sold for huge money this summer.

 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

There is also the question of whether Conte, who is a combustible character, could clash with Levy, particularly as most of the chairman's previous managers have eventually grown frustrated over recruitment.

Levy's push to appoint Fabio Paratici, who worked with Conte at Juventus, as a director of football therefore looks a canny move, potentially putting a cushion between himself and the head coach, while immediately creating a structure in which Conte feels at home.

The return to a director of football is yet another shift in direction for Spurs, however, with Levy having flip-flopped between sporting models during his chairmanship.

It is a further illustration that while Spurs may have soon ended their search for a top manager, they are still continuing to seek a clear direction as a club.

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Tottenham in talks with Antonio Conte over manager role as Mauricio Pochettino interest rumbles on

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